Monthly Archives: November 2011

Expecto Patronum! And Other Animal Facts.

  Here is a free fact for you: I am an animal lover. I get way more excited about going to the zoo than any child, and I may or may not own ridiculous animal things like a pitcher shaped like a rooster, and a welcome sign that’s a cat. I know, how will you ever stand to bask in the light of my awesomeness, right? Now that you know just how cool I am…

  1. Elephants are my favorite animal, with pandas running in a close second.
  2. Snakes are my least favorite, and by least I mean I have a horrible, very real phobia of them. They give me nightmares, and I have a panic attack upon sight of them. But there is growth! I can now watch them on TV with only minimal crying involved.
  3. If I were a wizard al la Harry Potter, I would want my patronus to be something fierce, like a tiger, but, if we’re being honest, it’d be a regular cat. And if we’re being super honest, it’d probably look like this:

(I’m so sorry for my absence! I’ve been sick and blah blah blah. During my illness, I’ve read five books, so I’ll return after Turkey Day with reviews, insights, and side-splitting hilarity. Until then, I am thankful for all of you, my friends! Happy Thanksgiving!)



Filed under Cambria, Cats, Little Facts

Blast off!

Three places I dreamed of going as a kid:

  1. Outer Space
  2. Narnia
  3. Disneyland

One down, two to go!

Silly girl, you can only get to Narnia from England!


Filed under Little Facts, Odds and Ends

I Was Right About The Monday’s! Also, I Want Mindy Kaling To Be My BFF.

I knew I was right about how difficult it is to write a grocery list let alone a real blog post or anything else other than nonsense syllables that sound like a Jazz singer’s improvised scatting on a Monday. Dup an dab bam boni schuop doop dop a de boo da ne do ba. (<< I worked all morning, and this is all I have to show for it. I was trying to update my resume, but whatever.) I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird by Bird, and she feels strongly enough about Monday’s (and the month of December as well) to put it in the introduction.

“Monday’s are not good writing days. One has had all that freedom over the weekend, all that authenticity, all those dreamy dreams, and then your angry mute Slavic Uncle Monday arrives, and it is time to sit down at your desk. So I would simply recommend to the people in my workshops that they never start a large writing project on any Monday (in December). Why set yourself up for failure?”

I knew it! Even the genius that is Anne Lamott knows Monday’s are no good. I’m not sure why the angry mute uncle must be Slavic, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she agrees with me. I win, Monday! You are officially the worst writing day ever! Bwahahahaha!

Achem. Moving on.

It’s apparently the year for funny ladies to write funny books: Tina Fey, Betty White, and now Mindy Kaling, writer and actor on The Office. My cup overfloweth with joy! I have laughed so hard I almost peed a little bit while reading three times now. All years should be this full of funny books. Now if Amy Poehler would write a book too my joy would be complete. (Amy, if you read this, I’m begging! I promise to buy at least five copies if you do! I’m sorry I can’t do more, I would offer to pay you to write it or something, but I’m only a middle-class blogger, not one of those fancy blogs with ads and contests and glitter and stuff.)

I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in less than 24 hours, but I think that’s because it’s easy reading and not because I’m a speed reading genius. Actually, it’s probably because I was laughing hysterically and I couldn’t stop myself. To fully express my love and admiration, I have made a pliest. (Pliest is a word Mindy made up to mean “a piece with a list-y quality to it.”)

  1. She makes up words.
  2. She’s an obsessive list maker. (Me too, Mindy! I have lists of favorite baby names dating back 15 years! In middle school I had a list journal! I probably shouldn’t tell strangers this weird stuff about myself!)
  3. She also has a great vocabulary, full of smart-people words, like behoove. My mom used to use that word all the time. She’d say things like. “It would behoove you to clean your room, otherwise I will behoove your back side.”
  4. She’s really funny (obviously), and she’s come to terms with being a short girl who will never be a size two, which makes her either my twin or my hero. Or maybe both. (See what I did there? I can’t decide if I think I’m cute or vain and self-absorbed.)
  5. She’s observant too: the women characters on romantic comedies would not be viable in real life, and Liz Lemon crying out of her mouth on 30Rock really is one of the best comedic moments ever.
  6. Also, she has good ideas. I would totally watch a movie called Bananagrams 3D.
  7. Plus, we have a bunch of stuff in common. I cry about stuff that normal people would not cry about, I hate comedy roasts too, and I also made my friends watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus in high school.
  8. Gah! I can’t stand it anymore! Mindy, please be my best friend!!! I meet all your best friend criteria. And we both make lists and love shopping. We could be Mindy and Mandy. It could be a match made in heaven.

So in conclusion, Mindy’s books is super funny. If you liked Bossypants or are a fan of The Office, you will probably love it. And Mindy, if you ever read this, call me!



Filed under Book Reviews, Books, The Monday's

I’m Weighing In: My Favorite Veterans, Elevens, and A Little Caturday

Yesterday was an important day. 11:11 11.11.11 happened (twice!), and also it was Veteran’s Day. With all the hype about all the number 11’s showing up, and this whole Joe Pa/Penn State mess (Let me just say this: seeing that child rape and the covering up thereof does not go unpunished is way more important than football will ever be. And I can say that because I’m a big football fan, but I’m a decent human being first. What kind of society are we if we care more about a game than protecting our children? Rant over.), I felt like a lot of people forgot about Veteran’s Day, which is humorous, really, since we would not have the ability to be care free enough to care about silly number coincidences or football if our Veteran’s had not fought and sacrificed so we could remain free. I didn’t forget, however. My father is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War era. And these two special men were veterans as well.

Milford Caldwell, navy, Korean war

Robert Cahill, Navy, World War II

Part of it is the era they grew up in, but these were not soft, in-touch-with-my-feminine-side men. I knew them as loving grandfather’s, but they were not always that way. The realities of life, of working hard on the farm growing up, and then in the military, and then as blue collar workers supporting growing families, made them tough, hard working men. They, and countless other like them, are the reason we, and some of our allies, such as the people of South Korea, are free to live as we see fit. I’m proud of my dad and my grandfather’s for many reasons, but this is one of the biggest. So thank you, Veterans. Thank you every day. Thank you for making our country a safe enough place that I can write the following paragraphs, and only seem a teeny bit vapid.

Yesterday was, as I’m sure you heard and I just noted above, 11.11.11. The whole world seemed to be very excited, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy into the hype a little too. I bought a magazine subscription for only $11 (yay!), I learned that The National Corduroy Association honors today as the day that looks the most like corduroy (11.11.11. Yeah, I can see it.), and all the ads of the side of my Facebook feed said things like, “Enter today only and you could win $1,111!” And this is what I did to celebrate: I made a list of 11 of my favorite books from the past 11 years.

2000: I was thirteen this year, and I checked out The Hobbit from the library for the first time. It took me a little while to get into the actual trilogy, but I read and adored The Hobbit many times over, exceeding the number of times I could re-check-out my copy without sharing with the other kids. So I moved on to the main attraction, and loved those too, but Mr. Baggin’s and his dragon will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s a well rounded miniature epic with a lot of heart and delightful characters, and, as an added bonus, you can read the whole thing in the same time it takes to read the first third of the trilogy.

2001: I’m trying to remember what I was reading in the seventh grade, but I don’t remember much. The only thing I remember is finishing Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and watching the looooong movie. Since both still grace my list of favorites, I suppose they count. I know it’s so cliché for a girl to love Pride and Prejudice, and I really do prefer Northanger Abby and Persuasions, but something about Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy holds a special place in my heart forever.

2002: This Side of Paradise was the first of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works that I discovered. Ever a modernist, Fitzgerald imbues his books with the sense that everything is meaningless, even when his material is partially autobiographical, and he fills Paradise with pure egotism, witty banter, and pointless conversations. But because the work is semi-autobiographical, he also lends it a pain and depth of experience that, while still not making it as great as Gatsby, gives it a surprising resonance. On the cusp of adulthood, and up to my neck in teenage angst, this was exactly what I needed.

2003: I found a copy of Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King at a used book sale, and the poetry train officially left my station. In a rather Anne of Green Gables twist, I would read it all the time. I’m not as big of a fan of the epic poetry these days, but Tennyson stirred in me a love of poetry that has never died. And I still have that poor, beat up copy. The water ring came from a rather large mug of chicken noodle soup. Don’t ask.

2004: Peter Pan had long been one of my favorite movies, but I’d never read the book version of it. I stumbled upon a rather old version of that as well, and aside from sparking an old book collection, I discovered that the novel is just as good, if not better than the movie. Ever feel a need to reconnect with your inner youth? This book will do the trick, and it’s beautifully written too.

2005: I read some amazing books in 2005, but none of them had an impact on me as much as The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. Since I had visions of Most of the grammatical aspects are things we’ve all learned but sometimes forget, and the section on style is practical and wise. It changed me as a writer, and it will help you too, even if all you ever write are letter’s to your Great Aunt Bess.

2006: This was the year I first read Harry Potter, but you already know all about him. But Enchantment by Orson Scott Card is just as good. Ivan is a Russian Jewish scholar who studies languages and folk takes. He’s also a runner, and one day while jogging he stumbles upon a sleeping princess set upon a pedestal in pit, protected by a ferocious bear. And suddenly, everything he has ever studied is true. This is a stunningly well written, well researched, and cohesive story, the type you could finish in one sitting without realizing that hours have passed. And it deals with fairy tales, are you surprised?

2007: I’ve never been the kind of Christian to hide myself away from my culture, or any culture. After all, the command to be in the world but not of the world still necessitates that we be actually in the world, not in your conclave down the road from it. A Faith and Culture Devotional was a chance find, something I stumbled upon by accident in a secluded corner of Barnes and Noble, but it is one of my favorite finds ever. It discusses everything from AIDS and The Enlightenment to Moby Dick and Van Gough, with each discussion being informed by faith. It is a truly fascinating ride.

2008: Azar Nafisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran was assigned to me in an unorthodox but brilliant turn by my World Literature professor. It’s called a memoir in books, but it’s so much more than just that. It’s about the intersection of literature and culture, about what it’s like to be a woman experiencing both of those things, and about the universal truths that transcend the bounds of culture, religion, and gender, and ring true to us all.

2009: In case you haven’t realized it yet, I’m a big fan of a good adventure, and an even bigger fan of originality. And no one is more original that Walter Moers. I’ve read all four of his books that are published in the United States, but The City of Dreaming Books was my first, and is still my favorite. I mean, it’s about a city and an underground labyrinth literally made of books, and the protagonist is a dinosaur. Does it get any better? I didn’t think so.

2010: The Screwtape Letter’s by C.S. Lewis in junior high before my mom decided I was too young for such an intense book. Written from an elder demon to his young apprentice, this book is intense not in its action, but in what it reveals about the inner working of the human mind, and how easily we fall prey to deceptions. it was not my favorite book of the year from an enjoyment or entertainment standpoint, but I certainly learned the most here

2011: As I have stated before, Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is my all-time favorite book. I am in love with Yuri and Laura and Tanya and Pasha (Strelnikov), and I am in love with Russia. But more than that, I am in love with the umpteen things Pasternak really has to say. Sure, he says a lot about the revolution, but he also speaks heavily to loneliness, to the importance of individuality among and in spite of ideological trends, and to the dichotomy of worldview (from the German idea, Weltanschauung) and lifeworld (also from the German, Lebenswelt), worldview being the way we see things, and represented by Strelnikov, and lifeworld being the way we actually live, represented by Zhivago himself. Both are passionate men, two sides of the same coin really. And both would be better men, perhaps alive and not lonely men, if they were tempered. But that’s enough of that. I could go on for pages. A new translation of Dr. Zhivago came out this year, and I actually prefer it to the old one. If you’ve never read Dr . Zhivago, this translation is newly in paper back, and you should definitely check it out.

And one last thing.

Cambria is something of a special snowflake. I’m sure there are other such weird kitties crawling around, but I’ve never met them. Today she has alternated between sleeping in this box full of stuffed animals. and tearing around the house, tail fluffy and back arched, tearing into blankets, diving under rugs, trying to eat anything that looks interesting, including shadows, and biting anything that comes across her path, including feet. Yay.

Now I’m off to buy Mindy Kaling’s new book. Happy Caturday, friends!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Cambria, Caturday

Little Facts 2.0

I think I was supposed to do this on Wednesday, but I’ll do it today anyways, because I’m such a rebel.

  1. I wish the Macarena would make a come back. It’s the only dance I know.
  2. I would rather eat cookie dough than actual cookies.
  3. I’m scared of Tilda Swinton. I love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but I barely made it through the first time I watched the movie. She freaks me out; I don’t think she’s really human.


Filed under Little Facts, Odds and Ends

Book Review: The Grimm Legacy and Coraline

My life took a shockingly Pioneer Woman turn yesterday. I’m wore yoga pants for the second day in a row, I ate an entire pizza minus two slices all by myself for lunch, and I think I have a mild case of agoraphobia. Point in case: I got a little stressed about walking to the grocery store alone, so instead I watched all the 30 Rock Christmas episodes, ate a shameful amount of pizza, and looked at cat pictures on the internet. And then I still didn’t go to the grocery store. I did, however, write this amazing book review, so my slight fear of leaving my house doesn’t really matter in the long run, right?

One of my favorite writer’s, C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can be enjoyed only by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I’m fairly certain he’s right, although it’s hard for me to find the same joy in Goodnight Moon these days as I did in 1989. But when it comes to a story slightly more advanced in vocabulary and concepts, I’m totally on board, especially when they include things like libraries filled with magical objects and creepy alternative realities.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman first drew me in because it seemed to be a new take on old stories: a repository filled with the real objects that inspired the Grimm Brother’s book of fairy tales? Sweet. The magical objects disappearing from under the noses of the librarians and pages, until finally a page goes missing and it’s up to the teenage heroine to find the solution? Sign me up. A teenage love story unfolding before the backdrop of this quirky little story? Eh. That I could live without, but it was kinda sweet.

Elizabeth is a displaced high schooler. Her father has recently remarried to a woman who has two daughters, who vaguely resemble Cinderella’s step mother and her two evil step sister’s, making Elizabeth do all the chores and stealing her best clothes, leaving her with hand-me-downs and very little of her father’s attention. She’s been forced to quit her dance classes and leave her old school, and her best friend has moved to California. Though it’s not overly stressed in the book, she is, in fact, rather alone. Then she writes a history paper about the Brother’s Grimm, whose stories she loves because she shared them with her mother, and her history teacher is so impressed with her work, he offers her a job as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository. The repository is a library of sorts, filled with objects, some historical, some rare, and some magical, that patrons can borrow. The job gives Elizabeth something to look forward to besides school and chores, and she also makes friends with some of the other pages: Marc, the star of her high school’s basketball team; Anjali, Marc’s smart, pretty girlfriend; and Aaron, who is sometimes mistrustful and rude, and sometimes fun and friendly. But when some of the more powerful Magical objects start to disappear, and then Anjali and the their boss, Dr. Rust, both go missing, the pages are in a race against time to find their friend and stop whatever sinister force is behind the disappearances.

I was really intrigued by the concept behind this story, and I liked how Shulman took something as old and familiar as the magic of the Grimm tales and gave it a new life. How wonderful would it be if you walked into a room and found Cinderella’s real glass slippers, or Snow White’s stepmother’s real magic mirror? I was not disappointed per say, but I did think there were things that could have been better executed. First, the narration was done in first person limited, which is all well and good, except the narrator asks far too many question, especially in the first half of the book. I understand that writing for kids is different that writing for adults, but the target age here is ten and up, old enough to not need to be held by the hand and lead to conclusions, and certainly old enough to do some of the thinking for themselves. Also, our limited narrator has a rather difficult time making up her mind. In one sentence she will state that she sees why Aaron doesn’t trust Marc, and then in the next sentence she’ll be going along with Marc’s ideas. She spends half the book wondering, “Should I trust so-and-so? Should I be lying to my boss? Is this bad? Should I be worried?” Um. Yes, silly girl. You are being followed by a giant evil bird, you should be worried. Your friends are acting suspiciously, you should report that to your boss. I think even the youngest reader will sometimes get frustrated with this rather spineless character who Shulman unfortunately choose to be narrator as well.

My second annoyance was the lazy way Schulman treated some of the more pivotal scenes of magic. I understand that the point of magic is it cannot be explained away or fully understood, and one of the wonderful perks of working with such a well-known tradition as the Grimm stories is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining what is happening, your readers will tacitly understand the significance of what is going on. But when you, the author, introduce a new piece of magic- such as walking in the seven league boots from New York City to a magical land and then from that magical place, which is still outside, into a locked, basement room without needing a door or a key- you will need to take a little more time on the narrative. It’s easier to suspend disbelief in the well-known territory of fairy tales than it is with a brand new idea, and in order to ease readers into the new experience without break their interaction with and absorbment in the story, a writer should, in my opinion, take a little time with the new element. Ease the reader into it, like you ease a frog in the boiling pot into hotter and hotter water. Especially in the last climactic action, Shulman rushes too much, like she got caught up in the excitement of her own creation, and seeing the final light at the end of the tunnel rushed into it without giving consideration to the comfort of the ride.

My last frustration is the lack of emotional involvement of the narrator. Elizabeth is the protagonist, this story is all about her and is told from her point of view. We learn that she is mostly ignored by the father she was once close to, has been robbed of both her dear mother and her best friend, as well as everything familiar to her (school, house, neighborhood), and she is left to the whims of a stepmother and step sisters that the author tries to cast in the fairy tale role of evil. There are some deep emotions to be explored here, ones that would be very relevant to a lot of kids today. Schulam has the chance to make a bigger impact that just a fun adventure, but she fails completely to plumb the depths of any of the real issues . Elizabeth gets most emotional over being called nicknames by Snow White’s magic mirror, being jealous of her prettier friend, and getting locked in a basement full of dangerous magical objects (Which, in all fairness, would have gotten me pretty upset too.). All her other emotions come across as opaque, if they are explored at all.

For all its flaws, this was still an enjoyable little story, and it’s concept was pretty unique. If you see it on a library shelf, check it out, but I wouldn’t spend the eight bucks on it unless your youngster who never wants to read is just begging to find this particular title in their stocking.

As for Coraline, I think I missed something.

Yes, that's Cambria's tail. Have you ever tried to take a picture while also trying to keep a cat who insists that she has not received enough attention out of the frame? It's not easy. Or possible.

I finished reading this book several weeks back, but I decided to wait to review it until I re-read it, because I just wasn’t getting the hype.

Coraline is a story about a little girl by that name, who, with her parents, moves into a new house. It is a flat in an old house, sandwiched between other flats populated mostly by eccentric older folks. Coraline goes exploring around the grounds and in the house, where she discovers that there are 14 doors in the house but only 13 of them open up to anything- the 14th door opens only to a brick wall. Except for one night, when Coraline unlocks it again, it opens up to another, identical flat, one filled with better food, more interesting toys, and parents that don’t ignore her while they work. But things are not as wonderful as they first seemed in this Other House. Other Mother wants to keep Coraline all for herself, she wants to change Coraline, and, above all, she does not want Coraline to leave. Our heroine is now faced with a true challenge: she must rescue her parents, the souls of the other children who came to this Other place before her, her friend the black cat, and herself. But there is only one way out of or into this Other world, and Other Mother has the only key.

This is what I’ve found after two reads: this tale wasn’t gruesome, but it was creepy.( The illustrations, however, where creepier than anything in the actual story. Eek!) I liked Coraline herself, with her pluck and her quirks. I understood the lessons here, and I even liked what the author, Neil Gaiman, had to say about appreciating what you have (even if your parents are a little boring sometimes and they like to eat weird food), and about courage and bravery. I liked the passage where Coraline tells the cat that doing something that seems brave is only brave if you’re scared; sometimes you have to do unpleasant things just because that is what you have to do for the people you love. And then she screws up her courage and does what she has to do, even though it is rather unpleasant.

But overall, I just didn’t get the hype. It was well written, it was a good adventure with a great heroine, but it just lacked something for me. I know this doesn’t make for much of a review, but it’s all I’ve got. My final verdict on Coraline? I suppose it’s like looking at good friends boyfriend: you can see why your friend is attracted to him, you may even be friends with him yourself, but he just doesn’t do anything for you. I can see why other people love Coraline, but I just like her in a plutonic way. I think I would have enjoyed this book much more as a child, when it would have seemed more like an adventure. Perhaps I’ll come back to it for another try sometime. Or maybe I just need to watch the movie?

One last note on the Kid Lit front, and the I promise to write about adult books someday soon. (I’ve been a little short on that genre, haven’t I? I’m about 1/4 of the way through with The Map of Time, and I have a few other adult-ish stories waiting in the wings that I’ll get to soon. Pinkie promise.) These little lovelies came in for me this week!

When I was posting about Boy Books, this series came to mind. I first discovered the Karmidee series about six years back, and since then a third installment has been published. It’s been awhile since I read them, or have even been able to find them- I had difficulty finding them in a book store, and I think they are more popular in England since a lot of the Amazon booksellers were British. But, if you are looking for a fresh new adventure for your little man (or little woman! I think they are equally as enjoyable to both genders!), I strongly suggest them! We’ll see how I feel once I finish the whole series (the third book should be arriving any day now), but after my first tour of this rodeo, I found them to be some of my favorite modern fantasies, and I would even consider them a forray into the world of Magical Realism. I first stumbled upon them at my library, so definitely check them out!


Filed under Book Reviews, Books

I Never Can Blog On a Monday, But I Do Love A Good Story

I can’t ever seem to blog on Monday’s. I’m just not good at it. It always takes my brain a day or two to get used to thinking on it’s feet after the lazy weekend, so this little stream of thought is all I’ve got for you today. Please forgive my Monday’s, it’s rather like having mumps of the soul. But I suspect I’ll be back tomorrow, and charging full steam ahead. And even with a case of The Today’s, I still love a good story, and I love to talk about my love of a good story, so here goes…

I am, obviously, a great proponent of literacy. I don’t believe there is any greater thing you can do for your child, aside from giving them unconditional love and a sense of security, than give them a great love of reading and the ability to read and write with skill. No matter what they do in life, it will serve them well.

Despite feeling this deeply, and even having written my senior thesis on the subject, I often struggle to find the words to defend it, especially when a friend or an acquaintance tells me something ridiculous such as, “I don’t read fiction. It’s a waste of time.”  Or, “I read fiction only for fun, since there’s nothing really to learn from it.” Or, as one mother sneered in my bookstore after her son asked to buy The Lord of the Rings, “My son reads nothing but fantasies, and science fiction. All nonsense. I hate that that’s all he reads. He needs to start reading real books, or he’ll never grow up.”

Um, excuse me? That’s classical literature! Do you plan to send you son to college? Because if you do, he’ll read plenty of that “nonsense” in required classes!

But did I say that? NO. I didn’t think of it until much later. Instead I mumbled like an idiot, “Um, well, that’s actually a really great book.” And then she gave me the death look, and I told my boss she was mean, because I’m very mature and always handle conflict in an adult manner. But she did let him buy it in the end, so I was glad.

After I finished The Book of Lost Things last week, I was reading all the extra stuff in the back, when I came across this great quote from the author John Connolly. It exemplifies pretty well how I feel about the subject.

“I think the act of reading imbues the reader with a sensitivity toward the outside world that people who don’t read can sometimes lack. I know it seems like a contradiction in terms; after all, reading is such a solitary , internalizing act that it appears to represent a disengagement from day-to-day life. But reading, and particularly the reading of fiction, encourages us to view the world in new and challenging ways. I have always believed that fiction acts as a prism, taking the reality of our existence and breaking it down into its constituent parts allowing us to see it in a completely different form. It allows us to inhabit the consciousness of another, which is a precursor to empathy, and empathy is, for me, one of the marks of a decent human being.”

Yes! I find that it is when I am actively reading along side of an active life that I am most engaged with the human spirit, with the world around me.I don’t think you have to read as much as I do to be a good person, my husband for instance is not as much of a reader now as he used to be, and he is a man of great quality, but I do think it is wrong to discount what it brings to your table. My inner life would be dull indeed if mine was the only viewpoint I ever saw, and I have no other way to crawl inside someone elses view except through literature.

And what about you? Do you agree with Connolly and myself, or is fiction relegated to the world of “fun but pointless” in your world? Or perhaps you only see the value in classic works and not modern fiction, or only read non-fiction, never touching fiction with anything but your pinky finger as you scoot it out of your way at the library? No matter what your view-point, my question is why? Why do you read? And why do you read what you read? I making rather an informal study of the matter, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


Filed under Books

Everyday Is Caturday If You Want It Badly Enough



DA-nuh, DA-nuh...


It's not a shark, it's a poorly taken cat picture! And it's in honor of...

the return of Caturday!



Okay, so maybe it’s just me and Cambria who are excited. We got so excited that she took a nap on the keyboard:

and I ate a brownie in my pyjamas:

But that may have more to do with my love for chocolate than it does about Caturday.

But you don’t want to see pictures of me looking maniacal moments before devouring chocolatey goodness, you want to see my furry goober doing goober-ish things such as…

playing scrabble...

and biting people's toes in the morning...

and playing in her play house...

and "helping" me blog.

And that’s  what the goob has been up to. Well, that and trying to jump out of our 7th story apartment window. I was far to horrified/pumped full of adrenaline to take a picture of that occurence, however. But that’s a story for another time.

Happy SaturdayCaturday!


Filed under Cambria, Cats, Caturday

11 Books in the 11th Month, and Also a Review of The Book of Lost Things

It is a rainy, soggy day here in usually beautiful San Diego. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I’d magically moved to Seattle while I slept last night. I suppose everyone and everything else is as startled by the damp cold as I am, because I’ve discovered that my internet goes out while it’s raining, and in between showers it works again. It’s odd, and more than a little annoying. And it means that I’ve been trying to publish this difficult little review all. day. long. But it’s here now. And the crowd goes wild!

As I confessed on Wednesday, I am not partaking in NaNoWriMo. I am far too obsessive and neurotic. As it is, there are days when I forget hygiene, food, family, and everything except what I’m working on. I don’t need to make it into a month-long freak out, though I could probably stand to lose the few pounds I always drop when I go into weirdo-writer mode.

That being said, I feel a little left out. The men have No-Shave November or Moustache Movember, all the other writer’s are doing NaNoWriMo, and what does Amanda have except jealousy because she has no thing? I don’t like feeling jealous, and heaven forbid that I be “the girl without the thing.” So I made a thing.

Here’s my thing: I’m a little behind in my reading challenge for the year because of the move. I’m five books behind, to be exact, so I’m going to read 11 Books in the 11th Month!

And yesterday I finished book #1: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly!

When several of my friends (and blog friends) found out I was reading this particular book, I got the same response: “It’s good, but it’s definitely creepy!” I’m not a big scary anything girl. I don’t go see scary, or even slightly-too-suspenseful movies. I avoid the horror genre in both literature and other entertainment like a plague. I cried during the preview of a Saw movie once, and my poor brain just cannot handle The X Files, but this was, somehow, different. My friends were right, the book was very good, and it certainly was creepy, but not in the I-can’t-sleep, wish-I’d-never-read-this way, but in the delicious, perfect-for-Halloween-week, face-your-own-fears way. The few times it got to be too much, I put it down, did something else, and when I came back to it I was fine. I found that the expectation of the scare was worse than the thing itself.

David is a young, bookish boy of perhaps ten when his mother dies. He is left with just her memory, and her books. She was the one who first ignited his love of stories; she believed that books are alive, or at least they come alive when human eyes read them, or human lips speak them aloud. When we read a story, we give it breath, we make it real. So David continues to read her stories, even though her memory is painful. All the while, World War II is lashing at the windows of his world, but his father chooses to keep him in London since his son is all he has left in the world. In the following months, David falls into a deep sadness, and in his despair he begins to hear books talk, and see things, specifically a crooked man, which belong in stories and not out of them. When his father marries a new woman and has a second son, David’s plight becomes worse, and he starts passing out for long times, dreaming of a strange world that seems foreign, yet familiar.

In his new house, with his new family, David begins to see strange things more and more. In waking dreams, David discovers oddities about his new home. There is a sunken garden with a hole in the stone wall, and out of it he hears the voice of his dead mother. One day he takes a walk in the woods behind the house, and looks up to his room only to see the crooked man flipping through his books, and sometimes his room smells oddly for no reason. He knows the crooked man is there for him. One night, the voice of his dead mother is particularly talkative, and David decides it is time for this to end. He follows the voice to the hole in the wall of the sunken garden and finds himself in a new world, one of malignant fairy tales and unspeakable dangers.

Through battles with the Loups, a mutant race of half-men, half-wolves, the loss of the Woodsman and the knight who protect him, the out-witting of trolls, friendship with communist dwarves, and the constant threat of the crooked man and other foes, David traverses this odd new world, defeating his fears and slowly transforming from a boy to a man.

As my friends noted, there was a creepy aspect to the novel, but for me it was mostly before David entered the new world. There, the crooked man, evil though he may be, belongs. It’s when he’s in our world that he freaks me out a little bit. That, and the huntress who like to play Frankenstein, but I’ll let you discover her for yourself.

There were two things I appreciated most about this book. First, I loved that Connolly intertwined so many classic stories, everything from Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” and Sleeping Beauty, to subtler influences, such as The Goose Girl, The Water of Life, and even the slightest twinge of the Biblical story of Queen Esther. Every good story finds the roots of its inspiration in yet another story, and fairy tales, as Connolly so wisely puts it in an interview printed in the back of the book, are “the first stories, the essence of later tales.” I especially like that he did not give into sentimentality. These are not the soft Disney fairy tales of your childhood, but brutal warnings closer in kin to their earliest ancestors, and though they are not cuddly and nice, they are truer in some ways, despite their crueller edges.

Secondly, I loved what this book had to say about growing up, about those awkward places where your person distorts and stretches and pulls as you transform from yearling to fledgling adult. To transform successfully we all must face down a lot of fears and figure out some truths about ourselves, and though we may not get literally lost in a world of story to do so, the stories we read to help us along the way. In so many ways, this story is hyperbole at its best, a demonstration of the way stories help us become better versions of ourselves on a scale more grandiose that real life, but not less real. It is a coming of age tale that, once you get past the gore and creepers, will resonate deeply within the pit of your soul.

Overall, this was a fascinating read, and I would definitely re-read it, for I’m certain there are little strokes of genius that I missed. Connolly included a guide to some of the folklore included in the story in the back of the book, which was incredibly informative, but it also pointed out a lot of connections with the story before David entered the new world and David’s adventure there that I had missed until he pointed them out.

And now I’m ready for another good adventure. The soupyness of the day made it perfect weather for staying in and starting a new book, which I did, because I am smart and I hate getting unnecessarily wet. In keeping with the fairy tale these, I began (and have nearly finished) The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, and I also finally feel ready to tackle The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma.

So here it goes, 11 Books in the 11th Month!

  1. The Book of Lost Things: John Connolly


Filed under Book Reviews, Books

Little Facts

1: For one reason or another, I frequently forget to eat breakfast. But today I remembered! Unfortunately, I ate ice cream instead of real food. Oooops.

2: I wish I has Zooey Deschanel’s hair. I would wish for her singing voice too, but then it gets a little Ursula the Sea Witch, and that’s just creepy. (On a related note, when I watch her new show, I realize why my husband cringes when I do/say things in public sometimes. Awkward people are…really awkward.)

3: I’m too neurotic to take part in NaNoWriMo. Last time I tried, I lost 10 pounds in two weeks and ended up passed out in a freezing cold shower because I kept forgetting to sleep. I can’t go to that place again.


(This is a meme from Rebecca with an R, and this is my first shot at it. I may be the only non-fashion related blog over there, but I think these ladies and their facts are really fun!)


Filed under Little Facts, Odds and Ends